A Beautiful Dream (still), 2020, 2 Single-channel video projection, 08:20 mins

Marianne Keating

with Emily Butler

‘… my style of production is not documentary … instead, it is an accumulation of my investigation into this research. My films can be viewed in isolation, but they are also part of a bigger whole…They exist as a series of interconnected narratives… ‘

Listen to the full interview here:

My name is Marianne Keating, and my practice sits within the historiographic turn of contemporary art discourse in relation to the archive. Through my practice-based research, I consider what the archive says, who it’s said by, and what the dominant “master narratives” has simplified, hidden or silenced.

My research examines Irish history and the Irish diaspora, predominantly tracing the hidden history of the Irish diaspora in Jamaica. I then turn back to explore Ireland’s fight for self-determination and Independence, which mirrored similar anti-colonial and liberation movements amongst other colonies of the British Empire, including that of Jamaica.

What are you showing in The London Open 2022?

I am showing the film A Beautiful Dream (2020–2), which explores the height of the Irish War of Independence in 1920. It examines the ideals for which the Irish fought and the intensified events and reprisals by the British forces and the Irish rebels during the final years of the war.

Ireland’s fight for self-determination and Independence mirrored similar movements amongst other colonies of the British Empire. The film, in particular, examines the arrest of the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney and his resulting seventy-four-day hunger strike at Brixton Prison, which drew international attention and support from other anti-colonial and liberation movements. Amongst those who supported Ireland’s struggle for Independence were Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

 Your work seems to be about self-determination and emancipation from colonial rule. One of the reasons why we chose the work was the connection of Irish independence with London; London at the heart of this colonial empire, but also a point of departure many of these de- colonial movements. What does it mean to you to be showing this work within the context of The London Open?

 I think it’s really important, especially in the hundredth year of Irish Independence. When I moved to London in 2011, the different standpoints of how history is told now needed to re-examine my understanding of Irish history. No history stands independently; all things are interconnected.

During Ireland’s subsequent Civil War, 95% of all Irish records were destroyed in the 1922 bombing of the Four Courts in Dublin, which housed the Public Records Office. Due to this limitation, I rely on triangular mapping of the Irish, English and Jamaican archives to fill the gaps left in one with that of the other. I reinsert narratives lost or only told from the colonial perspective by pulling these threads together. This allows me to create insertions into the dominant ‘master narratives’ of the histories of the dominated ‘Other’ and return a voice once rendered mute.

Your work compellingly brings together historic photography and recordings with the sounds of very fast-paced Irish drum beats and Irish dancing. Do you describe your work as being documentary approach?

 To me, my style of production is not documentary or cinematic film. Instead, it is an accumulation of my investigation into this research. My films can be viewed in isolation, but they are also part of a bigger whole, as is history, as nothing happens in isolation. They exist as a series of interconnected narratives exploring and examining the history of the Irish diaspora.

In the case of the Irish diaspora in Jamaica, the traces of this history were hidden. Through extensive research across three countries, the traces first had to excavate through their lingering archival impulses, which does not happen linearly. Instead, as with my films and my research moves forward and backwards in time, incorporating many modes and sources to create new dense and complex narratives that can be re-edited and re-assembled as the unearthing of the history unfolds.

Throughout the film, the sound of bodhrán drumming and the Irish dancing is layered repeatedly, at times replicating the sounds of gunfire. But it is also used to reinstate the ideals for which the Irish rebels fought; Irish nationalism, Irish language and Irish culture.

How did you come to be interested in Irish diaspora histories and Jamaica?

In 2013 I was awarded a residency by artist Joy Gregory in Jamaica, arriving a few weeks later. While I was there, I began to notice Irish connections in Jamaica, such as Irish words from the Gaelic language incorporated in Jamaican Patois, words such as geansaí, meaning jumper. I also found many different Irish place names in Jamaica, like the small town I am from, Clonmel. Through empirical research, I realised the Irish had arrived in Jamaica at some point, and I began to research how this migration occurred.

Through the triangular mapping of the Irish, English and Jamaican archives and onsite investigation, I uncovered the movement of Irish Indentured labours to Jamaica in the 1840s, beginning with children from the age of seven. After the abolition of enslavement, the white Jamaican plantocracy introduced the system of indenture to supply a new labour force to the island. The economic hardships of Irish Catholic people under British colonial rule offered fertile ground for their recruitment to work on the plantations. Many Irish committed to indenture to escape economic and religious oppression and the outbreak of famine, all of which were major push factors.

Over the last nine years, I have researched and traced this migration from their departure in Ireland to their arrival in Jamaica, tracing the Irish diaspora in present- day Jamaica and addressing the impact of the Irish diaspora on contemporary politics in Jamaica.


Work in the exhibition: 

A Beautiful Dream, 2020
Single-channel video projection
08:20 mins


Marianne Keating  (Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland)
2022 PhD in Visual & Material Culture and Contemporary Art Practice, funded by KSA at Kingston University, London and TECHNE Associate
2018 Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy for Teaching and Learning, Kingston University, London
2013 MA in Fine Art Printmaking, Royal College of Art, London
2002 BA in Fine Art, Limerick School of Art and Design

Selected exhibitions and screenings: The Moon is right over my head, Black Tower Projects, London (solo) (2020); A Beautiful Dream, Cork City and County Archives (solo) (2020); Better Must Come, Rampa, Porto, Portugal (2019); The Ocean Between, Crawford Art Gallery, Cork (2019); Another Land: Experimental Visualisations of Place, Stanley Picker Gallery, London (2019); Arrivants, Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Barbados (2018); New Contemporaries, South London Gallery, London (2018); Between us and, Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh (2018)

What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?

This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.

Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.

The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.

The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.

The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.

Gallery 1, Downstairs

The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.

Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.

Gallery 9, Upstairs

This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free  2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.

Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.

Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?

Gallery 8, Upstairs

The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.

Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.

On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.

The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.

Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.

See the full list of works here.

An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.

Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.